07 May, 2021

A Martial Spirit, All In Vein

Punjab's hardy 'sons of the soil' are nowhere to be seen. A corrosive drug culture rules.

Jitender Gupta
A Martial Spirit, All In Vein

Punjab is the land of milk and honey that produces tall, strapping, healthy young men, who are, naturally, the best recruits for India’s uniformed forces. Right ? Wrong. Alarm bells rang in May 2009, when the Border Security Force (BSF) conducted a recruitment rally in Bhikhiwind in Tarn Taran to fill 376 vacancies for constables. Even though 8,600 young men had turned up, the BSF failed to find enough suitable candidates and had to surrender as many as 85 vacancies. Commandant Ajit Kumar, who conducted the recruitment, told Outlook, “The physical structure of the boys was very poor. They appeared undernourished and pigeon-chested. Most could not run the mandatory 1,600 metres in the given time.”

A year-and-a-half later, the fact that Punjabi boys are flunking recruitment tests by the army, the BSF and the police is a constant refrain across the state. You hear, in almost the same breath, another lament, in village chaupals, government offices, hospitals, colleges, political party offices and even out in fields: that...

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